Well friends, I made it to a new continent and a new country I’ve been wanting to visit for most of my life – Australia! I’m all settled in my apartment in Melbourne, and trying hard not to think about having to leave in four short months.
So I knew the coffee culture was big here, but no one informed me of the FOOD! I want to eat everything I see on the street, in the markets and at every cute café… and I probably would were it not so expensive. One of the best features of my apartment is that it is right next to the Queen Victoria Market, a huge (takes up 2 city blocks!) farmers & artisans market where I can score some great deals on the typically pricey produce. The indoor portion of the market is filled with artisan made yogurts, cheeses, breads, pestos, dips, cereals, pastries, chocolates… you name it. They seem very into quality and fresh foods here and I love it.
If there’s a place encompassing my idea of perfection in Latin America, it would be the town of Salento. In this little coffee town of Quindio, Colombia, everything is just right.
The town itself is quiet, but not sleepy. People there are super friendly, but not in your face or pushy. The colonial-style buildings are colorful but not flashy. The main street in town is lined with local artisans selling beautiful handcrafted goods (woven sweaters and ponchos, copper jewelry, pottery, sculptures, planters, etc) – not plastic keychains and cheap souvenirs. They grow the best coffee in the world, and they’re in love with it. Aside from the pure coffee that is grown, roasted, and brewed by the people who know coffee best, local shops sell coffee-infused everything – cookies, caramel (cafequipe), liquor, chocolate-coated beans, you name it.
I never expected to encounter a landscape so utterly ideal and flawless – but here it is. Any direction you look, lush green mountains roll into the distance, scattered with palms and tropical flowers and trees, dairy cows and horses. Needless to say there is ample space to hike and run and stretch your legs, which will surely be strong and toned with all the steady hills and winding dirt roads. If this were a town in the States, no doubt it would be taken over by young outdoorsy hippies like many Colorado, Oregon, and California towns these days (not to be stereotypical ;) But instead it’s populated with local artisans, coffee farmers, cowboys, and the small population of backpackers who come (often staying longer than planned) and go.
The climate is like none other I’ve encountered. There can be intense sunshine, cool fog, rain, lightning, and silver-lined, pillowy clouds all in one day. The tropical vegetation suggests it is humid and wet, but in fact the air is a perfectly comfortable not-cold, not-hot, not wet nor dry. It’s obviously the coffee plant’s ideal climate as well. The horses and dogs are hearty and well-fed. The cows here look genuinely happy – but really, how could they not be?
It doesn’t hurt that the hostel I stayed (and then volunteered) at – set amid a 200-acre picturesque dairy farm – feels more like a big cozy house than a hostel; like a communal living space where everyone cooks together, plays together, and lounges together. It’s safe enough to walk the 15 minutes home down a dirt road by your lonesome after dark (and that’s not just me being risky, it really is safe). I’m usually cautious about carrying valuables with me, but this is the first place in Latin America I’ve felt good about taking my ipod with me on a run (in Colombia of all places, to all you skeptics ;)
And as if I couldn’t enjoy my stay in Salento any more, there is a cafe that will deliver brownies filled with a thick layer of homemade peanut butter, right up to the door of the hostel.
This should really be called a banana mocha frappuccino, but I like to say spinach frapp just cause it sounds gross. Don’t get me wrong, I love my spinach. But who really wants it in their sweet blended coffee drink?
Leafy greens—fresh or frozen—turn out to be a great addition for smoothies and shakes. They add vitamins and fiber and substance to your smoothie without loading in the sugar, fat, or ice that waters down the flavor. Nor does it add any flavor of its own, so don’t worry about you frappucino tasting like a drinkable salad.
This homemade frappe has it all — sweetness from a frozen banana and vanilla soymilk, fiber from the spinach and banana, richness and antioxidants from the cocoa, a jolt of espresso, and extra protein (optional) from protein powder — without too much ice watering it down! To indulge in a mocha frappuccino for breakfast and not feel one bit of guilt? Mornings just got way sweeter. Continue reading →
And no, there aren’t any recipes here. Just a little snapshot of my life yesterday, trying out the new (and only 3 blocks from my house:) Black Tap Coffee shop with my best friend Allyn, doing a little research and psyching ourselves up for our trip to Guatemala.
…..which is in LESS THAN ONE WEEK! ah!
By the way, this may be my new favorite place to be. They do pour-over hot and iced coffees, [which I tried for the first time and fell in love], the tables are big and cozy and communal, and natural light pours in from all sides. It’s modern and hip, if you will, but at the same time fresh and cozy and welcoming, and tucked back in the neighborhood away from the noise and chaos of downtown.
Allyn and I were happy little puppies, tails wagging and hearts melting as we looked through photographs of the avocado farm we’re staying on and the exquisite volcano-surrounded Lake Atitlán.
Quote from the site of the mountain lodge we’re staying at: “We’re famous for our avocados, volcano views, amazing food and magic treehouse.”
..It’s going to be a tough week to get through. Hopefully I’ll get some yummy recipes up before I leave you!
Café y cacao: two incredible beans that are grown in the place I would most love to live—Central America. But I won’t get into that right now.
These pictures are a few snapshots of this past summer– one morning when the steam was beautifully swirling off my morning coffee, and later Mom and I found ourselves confronted with a wall of quality chocolate bars. Nothing exciting really, I just like the photos. (And that I got to sample several gourmet chocolate bars ;]
We were at MOM’s Market, a place I’ve seldom been to but has a nice selection of organic and health foods. And seriously, I have never seen such an impressive collection of unique, gourmet chocolate! There were a number of chocolatiers I had never heard of (and I’ve tried a lot of chocolates), bars containing every kind of filling and add-in you can imagine, all percentages of cacao, and a good selection of locally-crafted bars.
We found ourselves standing there reading all the unique labels and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the crazy combinations. Who knows what we came to the market for, but we left with four kinds of chocolate, and let me tell you it was way hard to pick just 4. Continue reading →